From current issue of Clash.
Terri Hooley has lived a life less ordinary. Driven by a lifelong passion for music, Hooley launched the Good Vibrations record store in Belfast at the height of the Troubles which became a focal point for the city’s punk scene, and his label of the same name issued The Undertones’ iconic single Teenage Kicks which was famously played twice in a row by John Peel and landed the band a deal with Sire Records. Last November, Belfast City Council marked his contribution to the city by unveiling a plaque dedicated to him at the former site of the Harp Bar, where he organised gigs for a generation of new bands.
“A lot of the bands I loved never really had records out, so I thought it would be a good idea to put something down, to capture all of the energy and to let the world know that something else was going on in Belfast other than bombs and bullets,” he says.
Now his story has been told in the comedy drama Good Vibrations in which he’s played by Game of Thrones actor Richard Dormer. “We were only out together for a day and it was pretty freaky because he kept watching everything I did and all my mannerisms and it was doing my head in,” he laughs. “But he was absolutely brilliant. It was as scary as anything. People were going, ‘It’s pretty freaky, he’s got you down to a tee.’”
Now in his Sixties, Hooley’s lust for life is clearly undiminished as he ambles through a succession of tales covering his love for early American garage rock, drinking with Pete Doherty and numerous choice quotes including: “I had offers to go to America, but I’d rather be down and out and penniless in Belfast,” “It’s twelve years since anyone seriously tried to kill me” and “I didn’t realise that I drank so much until I saw the movie.”
Virtually indistinguishable as he is in person from Dormer’s portrayal, it’s hard to imagine Hooley ever changing. He still runs a record store albeit “more or less by appointment only” and hosts the Alternative Ulster walking tour: “You don’t see any sectarian murals. In fact, last year we put up a mural for John Peel,” he says proudly. “It’s funny because the tourist board ignored me for years. It’s the only tour in Belfast that doesn’t mention the bloody Troubles or the fecking Titanic. It’s about sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll in Northern Ireland.”
From the current issue of Clash.
Penny Woolcock’s 2009 fictional film 1 Day examined postcode gang wars in Birmingham. During her research for the film, Woolcock met Shabba, a young man who was affiliated to the Johnson Crew (from the B6 area), who later asked for the director’s help in introducing him to the film’s lead actor Dylan who was part of the rival gang The Burger Bar Boys (B21).
After a tense initial meeting, the two men agreed to attempt to bring the longstanding violence between their gangs to an end. Woolcock documented the process in the new documentary One Mile Away. “Neither of them is that high up in the hierarchy, so it was very brave for them to take that stand,” she explains. “All of these conflicts follow a similar pattern and it really takes a brave person to stand up and stop it.”
Many of the people featured in the film state that they can’t explain what they’re fighting for. The impression is that the violence perpetuated is pointless. “It’s only the older ones that remember what the original altercation was,” she continues. “Once blood has been split it’s very easy from the outside to say forgive and forget, but if it was your brother or child you might find it a lot more difficult to rise above it. Things gather their own momentum.”
The film shows that the nation’s 2011 riots prompted many of the gang members to finally agree with Shabba and Dylan’s argument that their rivalry was unnecessary. As Woolcock agrees, gang violence is a symptom of divisions within society: “It’s something that people do when they feel oppressed or excluded, they just turn on the person closest to them. It’s very easy for politicians to say that the riots were about criminality but I don’t think that’s true.”
Members of both gangs united to form the One Mile Away social enterprise which seeks to inspire young people to follow a more productive route away from the negativity of gangs. Their work, which includes sharing the experiences of former gang members and using mentoring schemes, has already made a statistical difference to crime rates in the areas in which they work.
The film features performances from several rappers and Woolcock particularly credits Zimbo (also a co-founder of the social enterprise) for changing his lyrical content to provide a positive message which counters the “bullshit” image of mainstream names such as 50 Cent: “It’s all about changing the culture.”
From the current issue of Clash.
There’s been so much hype around Danny Boyle’s work as artistic director at the Olympics opening ceremony that his cinematic career almost seems like an afterthought. Trance reiterates part of what established his reputation in the first place: ambitious, large scale British filmmaking with an emotional centre and stunning cinematography courtesy of Anthony Dod Mantle.
The plot itself doesn’t sound particularly inspiring. James McAvoy plays Simon, a fine art auctioneer who strikes a deal with a criminal gang (headed unsurprisingly by Vincent Cassel) to arrange a theft of a valuable painting at a high profile auction. It doesn’t quite go according to plan as Simon is knocked out, leaving him unable to explain the subsequent disappearance of the painting. A hypnotherapist (Rosario Dawson) is enlisted to solve the puzzle.
Thanks largely to the screenplay by regular Boyle collaborator Joe Hodge and sci-fi specialist Joe Ahearne, Trance rises above its hackneyed premise. Perceptions of characters constantly shift and twist, ideas of good and bad become so blurred as to become irrelevant and the use of hypnotherapy becomes the focal point behind the film’s intelligence rather than a simple cliché. Simply, Trance finds Boyle once again in enviable form.
Biog for Mostar Diving Club’s album Triumph of Hope which is out next week. Written late 2012 for Lucky Sixteen / BMG Rights Management UK Ltd.
In the city of Mostar stands Stari Most, a historic bridge which rises some twenty-five metres above the Neretva river. Since the 16th century, young men have dived from the towering bridge into the cold waters below as a rite of passage into adulthood – one false move and the diver finds himself in serious trouble. In 2008, Damian Katkhuda was visiting the city which his father and many of his ancestors came from. He hadn’t yet put a name to his new folk-pop project when, while observing the spectacle, he spotted a plaque engraved with the words The Mostar Diving Club. “I thought, I’m having that,” he smiles. “It meant a lot with my family history. I’m sure a lot of them would’ve done it in the past.”
While Katkhuda wouldn’t be exposed to the risk of life and limb that generations before him had encountered, his own Mostar Diving Club wasn’t without peril. After the decline of his previous band Obi, who released two well-received albums on Cooking Vinyl and played to audiences of up to 8000 in mainland Europe while being almost unknown at home, Katkhuda was seated in music’s last chance saloon. “Mostar Diving Club was probably my last stab at it. And luckily it worked,” he grins.
Working with producer and multi-instrumentalist Will Worsley, Katkhuda delivered Mostar Diving Club’s debut album Don Your Suit of Lights in 2009 on an estimated budget of £1000. Featuring material ranging from stripped down productions to richer sounds filled with brass, strings and all manner of other instrumentation, the album reiterated the fact that great music can be produced at little expense.
Their efforts would go on to be richly rewarded, as their music was selected for a number of high profile film, TV and advert syncs. As the release of the second Mostar Diving Club album The Triumph of Hope draws near, the duo’s songs have since been heard in Grey’s Anatomy, the Stateside hit crime-drama Castle, the Rachel Bilson movie Waiting For Forever and commercials for the likes of Honda, Asda, Walkers and Jacobs coffee. “Musicians have to do that. Unless you’re a real big hitter, you’re not going to make any money from your records or anything much else,” he explains. “As my lawyer keeps reminding me, I will not always be flavour of the month, so now is the time to take advantage.”
Some of those sync deals could earn five-figure sums with additional royalties on top, as well as the exposure created by the inclusion of the songs on mainstream TV shows. Katkhuda estimates that Don Your Suit of Lights sold “a few thousand” copies online in addition to the initial run of 1000 physical copies that are now long sold-out. Clearly, the Mostar Diving Club business model can provide a decent living. So why is Triumph of Hope – highlights of which include the uplifting folk-pop of Give A Little Love and To The Ocean, the tender Echoes and the haunting Train of Roses – being released as a joint venture between Katkhuda’s Lucky Sixteen label and BMG Rights Management (UK) Limited?
“If you can get that going, there’s no need to have a record deal,” Katkhuda concurs. “But people generally don’t take you seriously unless a bigger company is saying, ‘We think this is good too, and we’ll be put our weight behind it.’ If you want to go to the next level, a record company is essential.” His admiration for label mates such as Fleet Foxes, Bon Iver and Laura Marling underlines his point.
As much as Katkhuda underplays hearing his music on adverts (“I don’t watch much TV but when I have heard one of my songs in an ad, I think that’s nice… kerching!”), it’s evident that he’s eager for people to hear his work in its original form. “I write albums because I love doing them, it just so happens that people buy them for adverts. That’s all well and good, but I definitely don’t make them with that in mind, I make them because I love making and writing music.”
The writing process also holds more appeal than hitting the road. After tiring of endless touring during the Obi days, Katkhuda expects Mostar Diving Club’s future shows to be limited to special one-off dates. No matter how elegant the venue is, expect the unexpected: a fight almost erupted at a seated show at the St. Pancras Old Church when fans were angered by the loud chatter of others.
Triumph of Hope has been completed for some time and already Katkhuda is looking to the future. Serious progress has already been made on the third Mostar Diving Club album; he has another 170 Dictaphone-recorded ideas in mind for a fourth and is also forging ahead with work on a Christmas album (“It’s really funny dragging the sleigh bells out in the middle of summer”).
There’s more to Katkhuda than his obsessive love of music: he’s eager to elucidate on any subject of interest, such as how his surname originates from the Ottoman Empire’s attempts to force the Balkan region to convert to Islam; Bosnia’s lack of tourism; his hopes for the nation to return to its beauty; and how the death of Free’s Paul Kossoff indirectly inspired him to learn the guitar. Essentially, however, his story is that of a man who has encountered success simply by pursuing his strongest passion. This Mostar Diving Club might not have the long history of its namesake, but its sounds are causing a ripple around the world.
Know The Score is a small piece in each Clash film section which looks at soundtracks and scores. Here are some of my contributions from the last year.
BEBERIAN SOUND STUDIO
Composed before the tragic, premature death of Trish Keenan, Broadcast’s score fluctuates in style throughout its thirty-nine ominous extracts as it ranges from sinister traditional English folk to gloomy minimalist electronica. James Cargill’s deployment of terrified screeches and disconcerting dialogue ensure that this is a soundtrack album that very much takes the listener back to the atmosphere of the film. The result is a nightmarish aural trip for harrowed souls.
THE LAST EMPEROR
Twenty-five years ago the unlikely team of Ryuichi Sakamoto, David Byrne and Cong Su triumphed over regular challengers Morricone and Williams to win the Oscar for Best Original Score. Sakamoto combines influences from epic soundtracks and traditional Chinese music to create a modern classical score which has been regularly imitated ever since. Byrne’s work is complimentary to Sakamoto’s, albeit more restrained and rhythmically orientated, while Cong Su’s sole contribution fits seamlessly.
Inspired by Blind Willie Johnson’s Dark Was The Night, Cold Was The Ground, Ry Cooder’s soundtrack to Paris, Texas is a triumph; his sparse and soulful acoustic blues instrumentals perfectly complement the desert desolation depicted in Wim Wenders’ equally meditative movie. Compared to the sprawling length of the film, the soundtrack seems minimal (eight of the thirty-three minute running time is devoted to dialogue), yet it’s perfectly succinct. Harry Dean Stanton’s Spanish vocals on Canción Mixteca prove to be a heartbreaking highlight.
From the synthesised ragtime main theme, as playful and unsettling as the critters themselves, to Gizmo’s cutesy song, Jerry Goldsmith’s score to Gremlins is full of clever, endearing moments which contribute greatly to the manic black comedy on show. Existing songs are skilfully utilised too, notably Darlene Love’s Phil Spector-produced Christmas which sets the initial tone, and the scratched interruption of Johnny Mathis’s Do You Hear What I Hear? which signifies the chaos to come.
GHOST DOG: THE WAY OF THE SAMURAI
The rarer of two soundtrack albums released to accompany Jim Jarmusch’s hitman / mafia film is RZA’s debut score which was originally only released in Japan. Almost entirely instrumental, the emphasis is on laidback lo-fi hip-hop which flows from minimal soundscapes to sleazy funk to beefier beats, all the while maintaining a subliminal head-noddin’ vibe and an innate understanding of cinematic atmospherics. While this remains very much a cult choice, RZA’s work on Kill Bill earned widespread praise.
A regular collaborator with Roman Polanski, Polish composer Krzysztof Komeda is best known for his score to Rosemary’s Baby. Provoking fear through innocence, this simple lullaby would be a comforting night song if not for Mia Farrow’s melancholically phrased vocals and the ominous chimes that lurk in the background. Although The Coven’s sinister chanting and unsettling atonal whistles menace, the score often veers towards Komeda’s background in jazz. Less than a year after the film’s release, Komeda died at the age of thirty-seven.
From the current issue of Clash.
Soundtracked by little more than the blustery winds of the Scottish highlands and the rumble of a passing truck, Scott Graham’s debut film is set in an isolated petrol station staffed solely by teenager Shell (Chloe Pirrie) and her world-weary father Pete. The hurt of Pete’s past and Shell’s desire for a more fulfilling future forces an awkward rift between the pair which ensures that something has to change.
Featuring sumptuous photography of what must be one of Scotland’s more isolated areas and an emotionally economic performance from Pirrie, Shell is a master class of small scale drama.
From the current issue of Clash.
Young misfit Skunk lives in a cul-de-sac of dysfunction. From her liberal middle-class home she observers her neighbours: the Oswalds, a trio of teenager tearaways lead by a brutish father; and the Buckleys, a withdrawn older couple devoted to their troubled son. When Skunk witnesses a violent clash between the two families, the quiet suburban close becomes an unorthodox war zone.
Broken strives to represent a microcosm of British society, so it will come as no surprise that the situation is endlessly more complicated than it first appears – regardless of the outcome, each family’s actions are driven by self-protectionism. Its attempts to subvert such stereotypes, however, are undermined by such predictability.
Newcomer Eloise Laurence excels as Skunk – a bundle of eccentricity who exudes uncertainty at the unpredictable world around her as she edges towards adulthood – while the experience of Tim Roth and Cillian Murphy anchors the film in reality. Yet for all of the film’s leftfield charm and mostly effective humour, it doesn’t quite reach its potential. The sheer number of key characters is problematic as few of their stories are explored in the detail required, and the clash between quirkiness and a desire to deliver a devastating emotional punch jars.